06 Nov How Did Sarah Leave this World?
Without a question, one of the greatest women in the history of the world was Sarah Imeinu. The posuk testifies that when she was one hundred years old, she was absolutely free of sin like an innocent twenty year old. And when the posuk then repeats, “Shnei chaiyei Sarah – The years of the life of Sarah,” Rashi adds the incredible explanation that, “Kulon shavin l’tovah – All of her years were equal in their goodness.”
It is therefore quite puzzling that, moments before her death, the Satan was given license to shock her with the news that Avraham was taking her only son to slaughter on the alter. It was on this shocking note that her perfect life came to an end. Why would Hashem choose such a traumatic moment to be the finale of such a beautiful and picture-perfect life?
Perhaps even more perplexing is the fact that we are taught that the only way to earn entry into the rarified grave of the Meoras HaMachpelah is to be one of the elite few who died by ‘misa b’nashika,’ through the kiss of Hashem. How do we know this? The posuk says, “Vayakom Avraham mei-al penei meiso – Avraham got up from the face of his dead.” The word ‘face’ seems to be superfluous. In explanation, our commentators say that upon the sword of the angel of death are three drops of poison. One of these drops causes the face of a deceased to begin turning green and decompose. When Avraham got up from Sarah’s face and saw that there were no signs of decomposition and discoloration, he knew that she did not die at the hands of the Satan. Rather, he knew she had died through misa b’nashika. Therefore, he was able to pursue his plan to bury her in the Meoras Hamachpelah.
So now we have quite a paradox. On the one hand, Rashi says that the death of Sarah was recorded in the Torah in proximity to the Akeidas Yitzchak to inform us that it was the scare of the news of the Akeida that brought about her demise. Here we have established that she passed away from the kiss of Hashem. Which one is it?
I would like to suggest the following possibility. The Panei-ach Raza (one of the early Rishonim) asks why the Satan was permitted to scare Sarah Imeinu. He answers that it was an element of midah k’neged midah, Hashem’s retribution measure for measure. When the three angels told Sarah that she would have a son, we know she laughed inwardly. Avraham subsequently questioned her about this, as it says, “Vat’chachesh Sarah – Sarah denied having laughed.” And therefore, says the Panei-ach Raza, for this lie she was punished: Satan was given license to lie to her about the Akeida, and to say that her only son had been slaughtered.
The Gemora tells us that four groups of people will not be allowed to greet the Shechina. One of the four is the ‘kat hashakronim,’ those who have said lies. We therefore understand that there was a problem when it came the time for Sarah Imeinu to leave the world – for she was to exit from the world through the very highest means, namely misa b’nashika. But, in its very definition, this would mean that she would be, ‘m’kabeil hapnei HaShechinah,’ she would be greeting the face of the Divine Presence. But the incident of ‘T’chachesh Sarah,’ where she denied having laughed, stood in the way of this. She therefore had to be cleansed from this episode-—moments before her death—through the punishment of the shocking lie of the Satan. Then, having been purged of this indiscretion, she was able to leave the world through misa b’nashika.
I believe it is for this reason that Rashi, in his Chumash commentary, does not tell us about the episode of the Satan scaring Sarah on the words “V’tamas Sarah – Sarah passed away.” Rather, he says this on the heading, “Lispod l’Sarah v’livkosah,” for it is not an explanation of how Sarah died, for she died through misa b’nashika and not from this shock.
In the future, with G-d’s help, we will discuss the very fundamental lessons to be learned from this; namely, how careful we have to be in training ourselves never to veer from the truth. In the merit of our Torah study, may we be blessed with good health, happiness and everything wonderful.
Please contine to daven for a Refuah Shelamah for Miriam Lieba Bas Devorah.